January is a fickle month at Ross Barnett, with warm weather some years while other times feature temperatures below freezing the entire month. 

Here are some tips for success on the Rez.


Patterns for January’s warm weather

As Ross Barnett’s vegetation dies off and the lily pads vanish from sight, the stems with grass mixed in will be underwater.

If the water temperature is around 50 degrees — and before the weather gets cold — shad, bluegills and other baitfish will be feeding heavily in these stems and the floating mats of grass, which means the bass will be there, too.

Three methods will catch these bass:

• Frog fishing — In January, I’ll be fishing two types and two colors of frogs.

If I can hear bream smacking on the surface, or if I see bass moving in the water, I’ll fish the Mann’s Pygmy Frog — a popping bait — because I know bass are active.

Because this lure is much smaller than other frogs, fish tend to get it in their mouths deeper, and I catch more bass than I lose.

I’ll have a black and a white Pygmy Frog rigged on rods, and I’ll let the bass tell me which color they prefer. 

I’ll also have two Super Frogs rigged up. If I don’t see any movement in the water or hear bluegills smacking, I know the bass aren’t actively feeding. The bass then prefer a slower-moving and bigger bait like the Super Frog. 

In the lily pad stems are patches of vegetation with lots of vines resembling alligator grass. I’ll fish both types of frogs around those patches with a Lew’s 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy casting rod with a Lew’s 7.5:1 reel spooled with 65-pound White Peacock Bass Braid.

• Jigging — If bass aren’t biting the frogs, I’ll fish a ½-ounce black/blue Stone Jig with a black/blue crawfish trailer on 55-pound Bass Braid on a 7-3 Lew’s rod and the same reel.

When I pitch a jig on the outer edges of the grass mats, I’ll have another rod rigged Texas style with a 5/0 hook on my casting deck with a black/blue crawfish under a 1-ounce sinker on 65-pound Bass Braid on a 7-6 flipping rod. 

• Punching — When I’m fishing very thick mats, after I fish the jig around their outer edges, I’ll use that 1-ounce weight to punch through the grass and let my crawfish follow the weight through the center of the mat to the clear water, lily pad stems and bass underneath.


Methods for January’s cold weather

If Mississippi has severe cold weather in January, here are the three techniques I use: 

• Stone Jig — I’ll move to the three miles or so of riprap rocks down near the dam and fish the ½-ounce black/blue Stone Jig with a matching crawfish trailer on 23-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon.

Bass near the rocks often hold in 1 to 5 feet of water because the sun heats up the rocks and heat is transferred to the water, providing an area in which bass feel more comfortable. 

• Shaky head jig — I’ll use a 7-foot Lew’s casting rod with a 7.5:1 Lew’s reel, hold my boat a full cast away from the riprap, cast almost to the bank and crawl a 1/8-ounce shaky head jig with a 6-inch green pumpkin worm down to the first shelf of the riprap, about 10 to 12 feet deep.

I’ll use a 7-2 medium-heavy spinning rod with 15-pound Bass Braid and a 2- to 3-foot leader of 15-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon.

I’ll work he shaky head the same way I’ve fished the jig, except when I move the shaky head I’ll let it sit still, shake it, pause, move it again and work it all the way to that first drop-off. 

• Crawfish-colored C4 crankbait — If the sun’s out and the water seems to be warming up some, I’ll cast parallel to the riprap with a crawfish-colored C4 crankbait. I’ll reel it slowly on a 6.4:1 reel and a 7-foot cranking rod, trying to keep the lure  in 1 to 3 feet of water just off the rocks.

I’ll use 20-pound fluorocarbon for this work.